Child and Spousal Support


By a law effective July 1, 1992, child support has been determined by an algebraic formula with these components: the net income of each parent and the time share of visitation.  Net income is after-tax income, and the period determining a party’s income is normally based on income from all sources- the income available for support- for the past 12 months.  That’s where it starts, but, particularly where income is not derived from salaries alone, it gets quite a bit more complex.  The obligation of child support is deemed a paramount duty of a parent and both parents have an obligation to support their child. 


The Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is a government agency with offices in each county.  On its website it states:  “California's Child Support Services Program works with parents - custodial and noncustodial - and guardians to ensure children and families receive court-ordered financial and medical support.” 

Wages can be garnished through that agency or by an order secured by private counsel.  But DCSS is an enforcement agency as well, with tools private attorneys do not have in collecting support, including suspension of drivers and professional licenses for failure to pay child support, intercepting tax refunds from the Franchise Tax Board towards child support arrears, and others.  In my practice I am often working directly with that agency on behalf of a client to access the enforcement services it can provide.


Spousal support.  Spousal support is support paid by the higher earner to the lower earner.  Temporary spousal support is determined by a formula which varies slightly between counties; its purpose is to as much as is practicable, preserve the marital standard of living.  Temporary means for the duration of the divorce proceedings, prior to judgment.  Permanent support is determined in accordance with a statute specifying the criteria the Court is to use in making that decision.  It is “permanent” only in that the term applies to spousal support paid after the judgment is entered.  The duration of spousal support varies, depending on the application of one of those criteria, whether the marriage is of long duration (10 years from date of marriage to date of separation) and a complex mixture of factual information that make presenting the case in court part evidence and part presentation.  My experience doing this as attorney for the high earner and well as the recipient of spousal support, and doing it in different courts over the last two decades, enables me to better present a client’s argument, whether the mater is to initiate or modify spousal support, in court or with opposing counsel.